Protect Tamils, not the LTTE

(November 01, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) One wonders if the DMK, a key partner in the ruling UPA coalition at the Centre, would have been inclined to initiate the move to secure the resignation of Tamil Nadu MPs if Lok Sabha elections were not round the corner. Clearly, a party that would be up against the anti-incumbency sentiment, both at the level of Parliament and the state Assembly this time round, has sought to use as artificial prop happenings on a foreign shore that concern the health of a violent outfit. Indeed, the LTTE is a proscribed organisation in India, held responsible for the murder of a former Prime Minister of the country. It is also regarded as a terrorist group internationally.

The support to it from a mainline political party in India is akin to a political party from Pakistan extending support to an Indian terrorist group, whether on the basis of ethnicity or religion. In any case, it is instructive in the Tamil Nadu context that a leading party such as the AIADMK, which typically alternates in power with the DMK and shares that party’s ideological wellsprings, has not minced words in criticising the LTTE. It has not been afraid of hurting the putative Tamil sentiment in this regard, suggesting that supporting the LTTE may not be an election factoring the state.

It is just as well that the crisis that threatened the stability of the UPA has blown over, with Mr Karunanidhi pronouncing himself satisfied with Colombo’s assurances to India over its efforts to ensure that the human rights of the Tamil civilian population in northern Sri Lanka are not prejudiced on account of the march of the government troops on the LTTE’s stronghold of Killinochi. It is a plausible argument that the DMK would have been only too happy to accept the assurances readily and call off the threat — to get off the hook, as it were, since there might not be great traction in the LTTE issue from the electoral point of view. The protection of civilians in wartime must always remain a key consideration, and New Delhi did well to remind Colombo of this obligation without any prodding from the DMK and before Tamil Nadu MPs threatened to resign en masse. India has also reasserted its basic understanding that a political settlement of the Tamil autonomy issue within the framework of a united Sri Lanka must remain Colombo’s strategic objective, and that a military victory against the LTTE cannot be a goal in itself.

It is a pity that many parties in Tamil Nadu have sought to equate the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils with those of the LTTE when these, in fact, appear to be divergent. In order to justify its claim to be the sole representative of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the LTTE systematically eliminated all Tamil representative organisations, destroying them physically, killing their cadres and leaders, including the respected A. Amrithalingam, the outstanding figure in the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), a traditional, middle-of-the-road party, which once so effectively championed Tamil interests in Parliament and outside. Last week, TULF appealed to political parties in Tamil Nadu to urge the LTTE not to use Tamil children as human shields in battle against the government forces. As yet there has been no response to this poignant appeal.

Editorial: Asian Age
- Sri Lanka Guardian